March of defiance against service cuts

First published in News Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Photograph of the Author by

HUNDREDS of demonstrators turned out in the rain to protest against public service cuts in Dorset.

Protesters from various unions united together despite the rain and the cold on Saturday to rally against the latest round of cuts.

The show of defiance was organised by the Dorchester, Weymouth, Portland and District Trades Union Council. It came as members of Dorset County Council prepare to vote on whether to agree a further £10.9million of cuts in the coming financial year.

Protesters waved banners and flags, banged drums and blew whistles as they marched from the Great Field at Poundbury into the centre of Dorchester, past the new council offices at Charles Street and finished with a rally at the bottom of South Street.

Chants of ‘No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts,’ and ‘They say cut back, we say fight back’ rang through megaphones and echoed through the county town as demonstrators made their feelings clear.

Among the fluorescent jackets and brightly coloured flags of the different unions were those from Unite, Unison, the Dorset Green Party, the Dorset Labour party, members of the South West region of the Royal College of Nursing and GMB. Hand-made banners read ‘the NHS belongs to us all’ and ‘cut bankers not services’.

The group held a short rally at the end of South Street.

Secretary of the area Trades Union Council Tim Nicholls thanked everyone for turning out in the miserable weather and introduced several speakers.

He ended the rally by telling demonstrators to fight the cuts.

He said: “The message is we have to fight.

“We can’t sit round and wait.”

He added: “We must get out there and fight.”

Pamela Jeffries, of the Dorset branch of Unison, told the demonstrators: “We don’t have to accept cuts to public services.”

Many speakers highlighted that food banks were opening up around Dorset and nationwide to help out people as they struggled to cope in difficult times.

West Dorset district councillor and Dorchester town crier Alistair Chisholm spoke at the rally.

He said the turnout had been good, despite the weather.

Speaking to demonstrators Mr Chisholm said that public services mattered to everyone, but they mattered most to ‘those in our communities whose needs were greatest’, such as the elderly or infirm.

He added: “Cuts to public services mean that in very real and often distressing ways, the most needy in our society are being asked to pay the price for the outrageous and gross excesses of our banks and our investment institutions.

“How can this be justified? How can this be fair?”

Dorset County Council will decide on February 14 whether to agree the latest round of public service cuts.

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